For some people, the thought of beginning CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy with CPAP masks is welcoming after years of dealing with sleep apnea, poor sleep, and exhaustion. For others, however, it can take time and patience trying to adjust to CPAP and finding the right mask for the job.
Different Types of CPAP Masks
Headgear and masks come in many sizes and styles to treat your sleep apnea comfortably. Since everyone has their own preferences, needs, sleep position preferences, and face shapes, traditional nasal CPAP masks might not cut it for them. You may require a different mask style and you should experiment until you find the one that works best for you.
Let’s explore the different types of CPAP masks: Nasal Mask, Nasal Pillow, and Full Face.
What is a Nasal Mask?
A nasal mask, also referred to as an oronasal mask, is worn over your nose only. It’s shaped like a rounded, triangular dome and is meant to fit the contours of most people’s face comfortably. These masks come in many sizes and shapes, making them a great choice since there’s one that can fit almost every user.
The nasal mask pushes pressurized air into the space of your mask through a tube. You’re meant to inhale the air through your nose only, making it the perfect solution for individuals who breathe naturally through their nose and require higher pressures.
With this mask type, the pressure feels similar to breathing regular air since it delivers pressure less directly into the mask. Individuals who prefer to sleep on their side or toss and turn can use a nasal mask with confidence. Those with sinus or nasal problems, however, like allergies or head colds, might find this mask type uncomfortable when they have one of these conditions present.
Pros of Nasal Masks
There are several advantages of using this type of masks, including:
- Most Natural Feeling
- Less surface area to seal than with a full face mask
- Natural and indirect airflow
- Numerous styles to cater to just about any type of facial structure and feature
- Works better for higher pressure settings than nasal pillows
- Ideal if you sleep on your side or move around in your sleep
Cons of Nasal Masks
There are some downsides to these types of masks. They’re not ideal for people who are mouth breathers unless they use them with a chin-strap to hold their mouth and jaw closed. They can cause soreness on the bridge of the nose or forehead.
They’re also not ideal if you have blocked sinuses since it can hinder the delivery of the pressure or if you have a medical condition like a collapsed or narrowed nasal valve, a deviated septum or enlarged turbinates.
Shop for a Nasal CPAP Mask – by price, top selling, rating and more.
What is a Nasal Pillows CPAP Mask?
Nasal pillow CPAP masks, also referred to as nasal cushions, are a smaller sized CPAP mask. It’s inserted at the outer edge of your nostrils instead of over your nose and rests above your upper lip.
The masks two cushions or pillows seal to your nose, delivering pressure in a more direct manner than do the nasal CPAP masks.
Nasal pillows come with less obtrusive headgear, are minimal in design and have a smaller overall profile, allowing for more line of sight when you wear them. This is ideal for individuals who:
- Wear glasses
- Watch TV before bedtime
Similar to nasal masks, the nasal pillows only work when you breathe through your nose. There’s less chance air will leak from nasal pillows because of the seal’s direct nature. Patients who move around at night while sleeping typically do well with a nasal pillow CPAP mask.
Pros of Nasal Pillow CPAP Masks
There are many pros to these masks, including:
- Great for stomach or side sleepers
- Maintains a good seal
- Ideal for individuals with claustrophobia secondary to having an object on their face
- Provides more vision than traditional nasal CPAP masks or full face masks
- Patients can wear glasses with these masks since they don’t cover the bridge of their nose
- They direct air into your nasal passages, thereby reducing air leakage
- They work great for individuals with a mustache or beard
Cons of Nasal Pillow Masks
Some downsides are:
- Can cause soreness of the nares
- Not well-tolerated for people with high CPAP pressures
- Direct air pressure may cause increased incidences of nosebleeds or nasal dryness in some people
- Not ideal for those who aren’t used to breathing from their nose
Shop for a Nasal Pillow Mask – by price, top selling, rating and more.
What is a Full Face CPAP Mask?
Full face CPAP masks fit a larger space from underneath your lower lip to the top of the bridge of your nose, creating a seal over both your mouth and nose. They typically include supportive pieces you fit to your cheeks and forehead to ensure a proper seal.
Although it’s bigger than the other two mask types, some individuals find it comfortable since it lets them breathe through their mouth without reducing pressure delivery. This may even reduce the feeling of claustrophobia.
Patients suffering from dry mouth tend to do well with these masks since the humidified air keeps all their nasal and oral passages moist. Individuals requiring a greater pressure setting often do the best with full face masks.
Pros of Full Face CPAP Masks
Some advantages of these types of masks are:
- Work well for individuals who have mouth leaks despite trying nasal pillows or a nasal mask
- Ideal for those with a high arched soft palate or deviated nasal septum
- Perfect for mouth breathers
- Ideal for those with frequent allergies or congestions from cold symptoms
- Good for people with claustrophobia since they only touch their face on the outside as opposed to nasal pillows or nasal CPAP masks that touch your upper lip and bridge of your nose or fit directly into your nostrils
- Work great for high CPAP pressure settings due to the wider mask surface area making the pressure more tolerable and less direct to the patient
- Ideal for individuals who sleep on their back
Cons of Full Face CPAP Masks
Some downsides of these masks include:
- Harder to seal because of the larger surface
- Lack of laminar flow calls for higher CPAP pressures and could make claustrophobia worse
- Air leakage from top of the mask causes dry, irritated eyes in some people
- The bulk of the mask makes it harder for patients to sleep on their stomach or side
- Hard for individuals to read, watch TV or wear glasses
Shop for a Full Face Mask – by price, top selling, rating and more.
Takeaways on Choosing a CPAP Mask Type
The mask used is a big reason why some individuals may not do well with CPAP therapy initially. Their mask could be too small or too big, it might not seal completely or it might be designed or made with materials that aren’t comfortable.
To ensure you’re able to maintain your CPAP therapy without interruption, it’s important you experiment with various CPAP masks types so you’ll find the perfect one that works for you. You may have to perform some trial and error to find the CPAP mask that works best for you.
When you have the right mask, it’s a lot easier to stick to your therapy feel more energized and alert after having a good night’s sleep. By finding the right mask for your individual needs, you’re that much closer to finding success with your CPAP therapy.
Have more questions about CPAP masks? Take a look at our guide on “Overcoming the Confusion Different Types of CPAP Masks” for more information. And if you’ve recently been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea and just beginning to learn the ins and outs of CPAP therapy, read our blog which provides extensive information to help you manage your condition.
David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.